I think every parent would agree with me that there is an appropriate time for your baby to wake up in the morning. Although, exactly what time is “appropriate” is different for each family. Some families don’t even stir until after 7 or 7:30 in the morning so if their baby wakes any earlier than 7, it’s too early. Some families tend to be early risers, so anything in the 6:00 hour is ok with them.
In my experience, 6am or later is an appropriate time for a baby to wake up. Yes, it’s still pretty early for some families, but if your baby went to bed at 7pm, an 11 hour night could be a very adequate amount of sleep for them! If your baby wakes up after 6am but that is still way too early for you, you can do your best to shift your baby’s schedule later (and it may work!), but it is possible that your baby is just an early riser and there is nothing you can do about it. Sorry to put it so bluntly!
Now let’s talk earlier. 5:30, 5:00 or earlier! In my opinion, this is the point where something needs to be done. This can be a tricky topic because there are SO MANY reasons why your baby may be waking early. I’m going to cover the top 5 here, but if none of these suggestions work, please reach out for more help!
Let’s start simple. It’s possible that there is something environmental waking your child up. Let’s start with the room. Is the room completely blacked out? Is it as dark at 6am as it is at midnight? If not, the natural light that is creeping in may be your culprit.
What about temperature? Is it too hot or too cold? Our body temperature drops naturally around 4am so if you are seeing an early waking around that time, double check that your baby is still warm enough.
Any noises going on? Garbage truck, mom or dad getting ready for work? If there is some environmental noise, I’d suggest investing in a sound machine that can block those out a bit.
This depends greatly on your baby’s age. If your baby is under 6 months old or less than 15 pounds, it’s possible your baby just needs to eat at this time. This can get tricky because it’s so close to morning, but if you can successfully feed your baby and put them back to bed to get a bit more sleep, go for it!
If your baby is over 6 months and eating solid foods, I would recommend making sure baby is getting some healthy fat and protein in their diet. At 6 months, the solid food intake may be minimal, but at least by 8 months this will become important. Increasing healthy fat and protein in the diet has been shown to improve sleep!
3. Too much or too little daytime sleep
Your baby needs a certain amount of awake time each day as well as a certain number of hours of daytime sleep. If baby is napping too much and not getting enough time awake, there will be a lack of sleep pressure at night that can cause early wakings. On the contrary, if your baby is not napping enough and going to bed overtired, this can also cause early wakings as well.
I realize this is tricky, but use your intuition. How is your baby’s mood? Would you say your baby is getting too much or too little daytime sleep?
If you need help making this call, reach out! This can be best assessed on an individual basis. Send me an email with your baby’s age and an overview of their sleep schedule and I will tell you whether they are getting the right amount of daytime sleep.
4. Time for nap transition
When your baby is ready for a nap transition, it can start to cause early wakings. This is similar to what we just covered – basically, your baby is getting too much daytime sleep.
You will see the transition from 3 to 2 naps happen anywhere from 5-8 months old. The 2 to 1 nap transition will happen anytime between 12-18 months old. Toddlers tend to drop their final nap anywhere between 2.5-3.5 years old.
Along with early wakings you will also see your child protest a nap or struggle to fall asleep for one of their regular naps. If you see signs that your baby is ready to transition, wait a couple weeks. If these indicators show up regularly for 2 weeks, then move forward with the transition.
5. Prop dependency
If your baby is dependent on something to fall asleep (such as nursing, rocking, a pacifier, etc), this can absolutely cause early morning wake ups. The solution here is much easier said than done, but ultimately you will need to remove that sleep prop so your baby can learn to fall asleep independently. If this is your situation and you want some more info on how to do this, let’s chat. I'd love for you to share with me what is going on so I can make suggestions specific to your situation. Send me a quick email and we’ll set up a time to talk!
As you work through these suggestions, remember to give it TIME. Sleep changes always take time. Don’t expect to see results after making a change for one day. My suggestion is to try something for 3-5 days straight before assessing whether or not it worked.
These are some of the most common reasons I see for early wakings, so give them a try! But as I mentioned before, if none of these apply to you, or you try them all with no success, there is still hope. Reach out so I can hear about your individual situation and offer some additional suggestions!